SEC Football Information Thread
Four teams in the Top 5. Seven in the Top 10.
The SEC is having a field day within the national team rankings. With South Carolina’s barrage of new commitments in the past two weeks, Florida’s three decommitments, Auburn’s flurry of additions and Mississippi State’s tanker-truck worth of pledges last weekend, the rankings have a whole different look than they did even two weeks ago.
Here’s a look at the 14 SEC schools and how they stack up against each other and the rest of the country for the class of 2015:
EDITOR’S NOTE: All rankings, team or individual, are based on composite rankings from 247Sports.com.
SEC: No. 1
Nationally: No. 1
Top committed prospect: WR Calvin Ridley (No. 12 prospect in the nation);
Headlined by: QB Blake Barnett (No. 19); DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 34 in nation).
The skinny: The Crimson Tide are miles ahead of the rest of the SEC at this point, and it’ll take a huge effort to knock them from the pedestal.
Related: Alabama lands three top 100 players for 2016–all in one week
SEC: No. 2
Nationally: No. 2
Top committed prospect: DT Daylon Mack (No. 16 ranked overall individual prospect in the nation)
Headlined by: QB Kyler Murray (No. 29); WR Damarkus Lodge (No. 37).
The skinny: The Aggies have three big-time targets remaining out there in Malik Jefferson, Kendall Sheffield and Christian Kirk. Four-star DE James Lockhart just came aboard this weekend, also.
Related: Nation’s No. 1 prospect for 2016, Gregory Little, is a huge Aggies target–and he likes their offense
SEC: No. 3
Nationally: No. 3
Top committed prospect: DE Marquavius Lewis (No. 2 JUCO prospect in country).
Headlined by: DE Shameik Blackshear (No. 60 in nation); DB Mark Fields (No. 105).
The skinny: No SEC school has been hotter in recruiting than the Gamecocks in June and July. They have the best recruiting ranking in school history, so far.
Related: Saturday Down South goes in-depth with South Carolina assistant coach and ace recruiter G.A. Mangus
SEC: No. 4
Nationally: No. 5
Top committed prospect: RB Jovon Robinson (No. 1 JUCO player in nation).
Headlined by: ATH Kerryon Johnson (No. 39 in nation); DB Jordan Colbert (No. 184)
The skinny: It certainly never hurts when you have the single-season record holding for junior college rushing in your class (Robinson)–and he still has one fall to go. The Tigers have two recent pickups.
Related: Five-star QB Torrance Gibson, an Auburn and Tennessee target, knows when he’ll announce his college decision
SEC: No. 5
Nationally: No. 7
Top committed prospect: WR Preston Williams (No. 24 in nation)
Headlined by: DT Kahlil McKenzie (No. 26 ); RB Alvin Kamara (No. 3 JUCO prospect in nation).
The skinny: At least one individual recruiting service (Scout.com) believes McKenzie is the No. 1 overall prospect in America. Not too shabby, Vols. The Vols have had two additions the past two weeks.
Related: Five-star QB Torrance Gibson, a kid Tennessee really wants, knows when he’ll announce his college decision
SEC: No. 6
Nationally: No. 8
Top committed prospect: ATH Terry Godwin (No. 18 prospect in nation).
Headlined by: DE Natrez Patrick (No. 80); DE Chauncey Rivers (No. 131).
The skinny: The Bulldogs have been relatively quiet over the past couple of months–but landed three in the past two weeks, including swiping a Gator commitment.
SEC: No. 7
Nationally: No. 10
Top committed prospect: DB Jamal Peters (No. 43 overall prospect in nation)
Headlined by: ATH Malik Dear (No. 135); WR Donald Gray (No. 6 JUCO prospect in country).
The skinny: The Bulldogs had just about the craziest recruiting weekend anyone has ever had when it added 7 commitments in one weekend. They now have the nation’s biggest class.
Related: Bulldogs get their quarterback, hold steady with nation’s No. 10 class
SEC: No. 8
Nationally: No. 14
Top committed prospect: DB Kevin Toliver (No. 5 in nation).
Headlined by: OL Maea Teuhema (No. 31); RB Derrius Guice (No. 94).
The skinny: The Tigers haven’t been bumped down for negative reasons, just that other classes have grown faster.
Related: LSU gets a four-star commitment and a Louisiana native wins the SPARQ combine at The Opening
SEC: No. 9
Nationally: No. 22
Top committed prospect: LB Eli Brown (No. 203 in nation).
Headlined by: TE C.J. Conrad (No. 227); WR Alex Stump (No. 308)
The skinny: Ohio, Ohio, Ohio–that’s been the key to Kentucky’s stellar recruiting classes under Mark Stoops. Ohio native Kei Beckham came aboard just a few days ago.
Related: The Ohio pipeline just keeps on giving for Kentucky
SEC: No. 10
Nationally: No. 29
Top committed prospect: DT Hjalte Froholdt (No. 96 in nation).
Headlined by: DE Jamario Bell (No. 192); QB Ty Storey (No. 223)
The skinny: The only reason Arkansas continues to be shuffled down is just because other programs have added so many kids of late. This is still a rock solid group.
Related: Arkansas has the SEC’s most unique recruit, and he lives in Scandanavia–introducing Hjalte Froholdt
SEC: No. 11
Nationally: No. 37
Top committed prospect: RB Eric Swinney (No. 103 in nation).
Headlined by: ATH Willie Hibbler (No. 291); DB Ugo Amadi (No. 287).
The skinny: It truly is just a matter of time before Ole Miss hits the recruiting streak that Mississippi State has enjoyed during the year.
Related: Prep teammate of Ole Miss OL Laremy Tunsil now on board with the Rebels
SEC: No. 12
Nationally: No. 46
Top committed prospect: QB Drew Lock (No. 136 nationally)
Headlined by: RB Natereace Strong (No. 243); RB Chase Abbington (No. 8 JUCO prospect nationally).
The skinny: His name is Terry Beckner, and if he comes on board sometime soon, this class will have it’s big gem. Don’t be surprised when he does come aboard.
Related: Mizzou lands a gem in legacy QB Drew Lock
SEC: No. 13
Nationally: No. 50
Top committed prospect: ATH Jerome Baker (No. 41 in nation)
Headlined by: ATH Derrick Dillon (No. 156); QB Sheriron Jones (No. 190).
The skinny: The Gators are trending in the wrong direction because of three decommitments in the past 10 days. Plus, some of their top targets are looking around more than in the past.
SEC: No. 14
Nationally: No. 59
Top committed prospect: DB Donovan Sheffield (No. 268)
Headlined by: LB Josh Smith (No. 286)
The skinny: There has been a lot of momentum in recent weeks, and having a nationally televised live announcement for Vandy last week (with Josh Smith) … well, that was nice for the Commodores.
Related: Vandy raids Pac 12 territory for fifth commitment in the past month
SEC College Football Season Win Totals
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Alabama Crimson Tide
Over 10½ (-150)
Under 10½ (+120)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Arkansas Razorbacks
Over 4½ (-130)
Under 4½ (EVEN)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Auburn Tigers
Over 9 (-130)
Under 9 (EVEN)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Georgia Bulldogs
Over 9½ (-125)
Under 9½ (-105)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Florida Gators
Over 7½ (-130)
Under 7½ (EVEN)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Kentucky Wildcats
Over 3½ (-175)
Under 3½ (+145)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – LSU Tigers
Over 9 (-115)
Under 9 (-115)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Mississippi State Bulldogs
Over 7½ (EVEN)
Under 7½ (-130)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Missouri Tigers
Over 7½ (-130)
Under 7½ (EVEN)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Ole Miss Rebels
Over 7½ (-175)
Under 7½ (+145)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – South Carolina Gamecocks
Over 9½ (EVEN)
Under 9½ (-130)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Tennessee Volunteers
Over 5½ (-150)
Under 5½ (+120)
NCAA 2014-2015 Regular Season Wins – Vanderbilt Commodores
Over 6 (+125)
Under 6 (-155)
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Saban: Alabama must re-establish its identity
By Tony Barnhart
Hoover, Ala. — When Nick Saban says that his 2013 Alabama team lost its identity along the way, here is what he means.
Alabama’s defense in the national championship seasons of 2011 and 2012 led the nation in yards per rush at 2.43.
The 2013 team, by contrast, gave up 3.32 yards per rush, thanks in no small part to the 296 yards allowed in the historic loss to Auburn.
That difference may not seem like a lot, but on such things are championships won — or lost.
And, after being ranked No. 1 every single day of the regular season, the 2013 Crimson Tide saw every one of their goals disappear when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a short field goal 109 yards for a touchdown.
The hope for a third consecutive national championship: Gone
The hope of another SEC championship: Gone.
Saban remembers the sting of that Auburn loss, followed by a less than stirring performance in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. It was clear when I visited him in the spring, and again before his media session here on Thursday, getting Alabama football back to its philosophical roots is Job 1.
And he ain’t kidding around. This year he expects everybody to be on board with “the process.”
“This season is about re-establishing our identity,” Saban said. “We as a team have to trust in the principles and values we believe in. It’s not about questions. It’s not about judging. It’s about how we adapt. How well we do that will determine how successful we will be.”
As SEC Media Days that concluded on Thursday, those who cover the conference clearly believe Alabama is going to bounce back in a big way. Despite the fact that Auburn, the defending SEC champion which came within seconds of winning the BCS title, returns its quarterback and most of its team, the media overwhelmingly voted the Crimson Tide to win the SEC West and the championship. Alabama got 154 votes to win championship while Auburn was a distant second at 75.
Saban could only smile when asked about again being the favorite, noting that only four times in the past 22 years has the media correctly picked the champion in the preseason.
“So I guess I’m rooting for you guys this year,” he said.
The last time Saban lost two consecutive games at Alabama was 2008, when the Crimson Tide lost to Tim Tebow and Florida in the SEC Championship game and then had a lackluster performance against Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama responded to those losses by reeling off 19 consecutive victories, including an undefeated season and national championship in 2009. Nine of those 19 victories were against Top 25 teams.
Two big concerns must be addressed. The first is whether or not transfer quarterback Jacob Coker can manage the game and get the ball to Alabama’s talented play makers, and there are many. The second deals with the cornerback position, where the Crimson Tide will be very inexperienced.
If both of those concerns go in Alabama’s favor, the schedule looks more than manageable with Auburn coming to Tuscaloosa and a trip to LSU on Nov. 8.
Saban made it clear on Thursday that this Alabama team will approach the season with a different mindset than a year ago.
“I think you basically need to check your ego at the door,” he said.
2014 SEC football schedule: 5 easiest non-conference schedules
on Cooper August 10, 2014 @ 2:00pm
Which SEC schools have the easiest non-conference schedules for 2014?
Here’s a glance at the SEC’s easiest non-conference schedules for 2014. I’ve included opponents’ non-conference winning percentage, and while that does play a factor, it doesn’t tell the whole story. But I’ve included it for reference:
1. Vanderbilt Commodores
Teams: Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion
Opponents winning percentage: .429 (21-28)
Buzz: This is as easy as it gets for any SEC team. All four were combined to fall under .500 winning percentage during the 2013 season, and all four should be Ws for the Commodores’ new coaching staff. The Dores are one of the handful of SEC teams that doesn’t play a legit non-conference opponent.
2. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Teams: Southern Miss, UAB, at South Alabama, UT Martin
Opponents winning percentage: .333 (16-32)
Buzz: If not for Vanderbilt, MSU would have the most favorable non-conference slate. This will be the year MSU capitalizes on a much more favorable schedule than years past. The combined winning percentage of the four non-conference opponents during 2013 was .333 – the second worst in the SEC. Like Vanderbilt, MSU doesn’t play a legit non-conference opponent. All four should be Ws.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Teams: West Virginia (Atlanta), FAU, Southern Miss, Western Carolina
Opponents winning percentage: .271 (13-35)
Buzz: Although Alabama’s non-conference opponents combined for the worst winning percentage in 2013, Alabama did schedule WVU when things were looking up for the Mountaineers’ program. However, overall, this is a really weak slate entering 2014. FAU, Southern Miss and Western Carolina? We’ll see how much a weak non-conference slate affects Alabama in the selection committee’s eyes should it come to strictly strength of schedule.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
Teams: Lamar, Rice, at SMU, Louisiana-Monroe
Opponents winning percentage: .520 (26-24)
Buzz: The Aggies have the only winning percentage above .500 in non-conference foes, but overall, it’s still pretty weak. However, Rice had a nice 10-win season and Louisiana-Monroe has been an SEC upsetter. Texas A&M should still finish 4-0.
5. Florida Gators
Teams: Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Kentucky, Florida State
Opponents winning percentage: .380 (19-31)
Buzz: Thankfully, Georgia Southern isn’t on the schedule in 2014. (Zing!) Of the 19 total wins by the Gators’ four non-conference teams in 2013, FSU won 14 of them. That’s three gimmies for the Gators, and we’ll see what kind of fight they give defending national champion FSU at Doak Campbell this year.
SEC Football Information Thread
Find out everything about the SEC in this thread
good to see you GCP... great time of the year..
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THE TEN AT 10
1. I had a brief audience last week with Georgia tailback Todd Gurley, who acknowledged reports that he is currently in the best shape of his career.
“Yeah, I’ve been feeling good,” the 6-foot-1, 226-pound junior said. “I haven’t been really getting tired at all. I’ve been feeling great.”
After an injury-riddled sophomore season, Gurley has been able to participate in every practice and workout since offseason workouts began in February. Coaches Mike Bobo and Bryan McClendon challenged Gurley to exhibit leadership by example heading into what’s expected to be his final year in college. Gurley has been able to answer that without a misstep to this point.
Gurley is the subject of a profile written by AJC’s Steve Hummer that will appear in our college football preview section, which comes out this weekend. Be sure to check it out.
Brendan Douglas could be saying, “don’t forget about about me,” but he’s not. (UGA photo by Sean Taylor)
2. Gurley’s solid body of work has been talked about a good bit during this preseason camp. What has been less discussed has been durability displayed Gurley’s cohort in the backfield, Keith Marshall.
Marshall, who is coming off an ACL reconstruction last December, also has been able to get through Georgia’s preseason camp without any setbacks. At one point consideration was being given to redshirt year for Marshall. Now it appears he is not only firmly entrenched as Gurley’s backup, but he may be getting close to becoming 1-B to Gurley’s 1-A once again.
It’s easy to forget that, before both of them got injured a third of the way into last season, Gurley and Marshall were averaging 17.1 and 12.7 carries a game, respectively.
“I’m definitely glad he’s back and I’m proud of him,” Gurley said of having Marshall back in the fold. “He’s been having a great camp. He’s been able to finish a lot of his runs. Last year at this time, if somebody would have grabbed his legs, he probably would have fell. But he’s definitely driving his knees a lot more and finishing his runs.”
I haven’t had a chance to talk to Marshall during this preseason and am not sure if he’ll make himself available before the first game. The last time I heard anything from the former 5-star tailback was when he talked to Dawg247’s Gentry Estes during the Bulldogs’ visit to Camp Sunshine back in July.
“It was just a bump in the road,” Marshall said them. “You’ve got to get over it. I’m not doing to dwell on it. Three years down the road no one is going to feel back for you because you tore your ACL. . … After it happened, I focused on rehab and getting back stronger.” “They look just like me and Keith, doing the same things we’ve been doing. They’re pressing their tracks, hitting it full speed, just bringing it every day.
3. Of course, Georgia ended up playing a total of 11 games without either Gurley or Marshall, and Gurley was limited to fewer than 10 carries in two other games due to injuries. Freshman backups Brendan D0uglas and J.J. Green came through big time for the Bulldogs during that stretch, averaging 58 yards a game between them. But Georgia appears even better equipped to withstand such a scenario this season.
Though Green has moved to defense, Douglas is back and has been as solid ever working third team behind Gurley and Marshall. And, of course, Georgia’s two 5-star freshman signees Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have generated plenty of buzz in camp.
“They look just like me and Keith,” Gurley said. “They’re doing the same things we’ve been doing. They’re pressing their tracks, hitting it full speed, just bringing it every day.”
How Georgia might work in the freshmen with three established veterans ahead of them — or if they’ll even try — is one of the biggest mysteries heading into next week.
“We’ll see what happens,” Douglas told reporters after a recent practice. “It’s up to the coaches. If they want me to play I’m ready to go. It’s fine. I love competing and we’re competing for the job. But, then again, we’re helping each other out and trying to make each other better.”
Todd Grantham says he “laughed off” SI’s report of significant friction between him and Bobby Petrino. (AP photo)
4. Interesting read about Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and his new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in the Sports Illustrated college preview section. According to reporters Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, who cited sources “with ties to the team,” there is “significant friction” between the former Georgia defensive coordinator and his new boss. The sources claim that that their working relationship is so bad that Petrino would have fired Grantham before the season opener if it wasn’t for his iron-clad, five-year, $5 million contract.
Of course, that news came as no surprise to Georgia fans and observers, who watched Grantham up close the last three years in Athens. Both Mark Bradley and Jeff Schultz of The AJC weighed in on the situation yesterday. Bradley has included a poll with his blog if you’d like to cast a vote.
So far, though, FootballScoop.com is the only outlet to have talked to Grantham about it. In a telephone interview with Scott Roussel, Grantham said he “laughed off” the report and insists that he and his family are very happy in Louisville.
5. There’s a great event for fathers in Norcross on Saturday that I’m hoping to drop in on. It’s called “All Pro Dad Live” and it will be hosted by former NFL coach Tony Dungy, Atlanta-based comedian Jeff Foxworthy, and Georgia coach Mark Richt inside the Long Forum on Greater Atlanta Christian School campus.
Dungy are longtime friends and spokesmen for All Pro Dads. The stated purpose of the live event is “to remind men of their importance in the family model, to encourage and equip men to become better fathers and to create community and share some laughs.” In addition to the three headliners, other speakers include Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward and Danny Wuerffel, current and former NFL executives Mark Dominick and Troy Vincent, Fox News anchor Bret Baier and FedEx COO and President Michael Ducker.
The all-day affair starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at THIS WEBSITE.
6. Georgia’s women’s soccer team is slated to make a little history this week. The Bulldogs’ season opener on the road against Ole Miss this Friday will be aired on the SEC Network. That will make it the first in-season live sports event of any kind to be broadcast on the new network, which debuted August 14. Georgia and the Rebels are slated to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
That’s one of three soccer games the Bulldogs will have nationally televised this fall. They’ll also be on the SEC Network against Vanderbilt on Sept. 21 (3 p.m.) and on ESPNU against LSU on Oct. 19 (3 p.m.). Depending on where UGA finishes during regular-season league play, the SEC Network will also televise the first, quarterfinal, and semifinal rounds of the SEC Soccer Championships Nov. 3-9 in Orange Beach, Ala. The finals will air on ESPNU.
Like pretty much all other sports, all other Georgia home games will be carried live on the SEC Network’s digital platform, SEC Network + (plus). IMG’s Kevin Copp and Lisa Boyd will provide commentary for those games.
Coach Steve Holeman’s soccer team is coming off a 3-0 win over Auburn in exhibition action this past Saturday at the UGA Soccer Stadium. The Bulldogs got goals from sophomores Alexa Antetomaso and Rachel Garcia and freshman Kelsey Killean. Freshman goalkeeper Louise Hogrell recorded the shutout.
7. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is now making its way through Georgia’s athletics department. First senior offensive tackle Watts Dantzler, whose father Danny Dantzler died of ALS five years ago, enlisted Coach Richt to help him and his mother and two others answer the challenge on the Woodruff Practice Fields. Then on Sunday Chuck Dowdle called out Cindy Fox, Kathryn Richt and Suzanne Yoculan Leebern. They answered the challenge on Monday, and now they’ve called out gymnastics coach Danna Durante, basketball coach Mark Fox and Coach Richt. It’ll be interesting to see what they’ll come up with to top them.
8. I didn’t see this video of Stephen A. Smith speaking at Columbus State back when it originally was recorded at the end of July. Nevertheless a portion of it was being re-circulated via social media this week because of what the controversial ESPN personality said about the arrests of UGA football players over the last half a year. It’s probably not what you’d expect. So for what it’s worth, here it is. …
9. Speaking of videos, UGA has put together a pretty good one that chronicles the football team’s time working this summer with “The Program,” a group of special forces and Navy SEALs veterans who put the Bulldogs through the paces for two days this summer.
10. This & that: You hear us media types talking glowingly all the time about Georgia’s Hall of Fame sports communications director Claude Felton. Claude works pretty hard to stay behind the curtain, but Bulldawg Illustrated published a nice piece about him on Tuesday. … Did you see where former Bulldog Blair Walsh made a 70-yard field goal in pregame warmups this past weekend? … Crawford Berry is a diver from Alpharetta who is transferring to Georgia from Darton State. He recently was named the 2014 David Rowlands Male Student-Athlete of the Year for all sports in the NJCAA. Berry spent two years at the Albany school and swept the 1- and 3-meter springboards at the national meet each season. He is the first participant in swimming and diving to win the award, which began in 1993.
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By Tony Barnhart
The Associated Press preseason media poll was released Sunday. Now I know many of you don’t put a whole lot of stock in human polls. And with the arrival of the first College Football Playoff and its selection committee, the traditional polls simply don’t mean as much as they did during the BCS era (1998-2013).
But what the preseason polls can do is give us a place to start the conversation, knowing fully that where we start and where we end up could likely be the difference between night and day.
Still, it gives us a metric for today’s topic: Which SEC team is going to play the toughest road schedule this season? I have always believed there are two critical elements to evaluating the relative strength of SEC schedules year in and year out: 1) Who do you play in the other division? 2) Who do you play on the road?
There are a lot of different ways to measure the strength of a road schedule. Here’s mine: First I determined how many of the AP Top 25 each team played among their five games away from home. Then, how many of those ranked opponents are in the Top 10? I counted neutral-site games as road games.
That’s my methodology. If you don’t agree, come up with your own. I’d love to read it. You may believe that Tennessee’s four ranked road opponents with two Top 10s, trumps Texas A&M’s three ranked opponents, all in the Top 10.
But using my system and the rankings from the AP poll, here is how I ranked the road schedules for 2014:
1. Texas A&M: Three ranked teams but all three are in the Top 10 — No. 9 South Carolina, No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Auburn.
2. Tennessee: Four ranked teams — No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 12 Georgia, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 9 South Carolina — with two in the Top 10.
3. Florida: Three ranked teams — No. 2 Alabama, No. 12 Georgia (Jacksonville), No. 1 Florida State — with two in the Top 10. Only school in the country that plays both Nos. 1 and 2. And both games are on the road. Ouch! I could be talked into moving the Gators to No. 2.
4. Auburn: Four ranked teams — No. 20 Kansas State, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 12 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama — with one in the Top 10.
5. Mississippi State: Three ranked teams — No. 13 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 18 Ole Miss — with one in the Top 10.
6. LSU: Three ranked teams — No. 14 Wisconsin (Houston), No. 6 Auburn, No. 21 Texas A&M — with one in the Top 10.
7. Arkansas: Three ranked teams — No. 6 Auburn, No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 24 Missouri — with one in the Top 10.
8. South Carolina: Two ranked teams — No. 6 Auburn, No. 16 Clemson — with one in the Top 10.
9. Missouri: Two ranked teams — No. 9 South Carolina, No. 21 Texas A&M — with one in the Top 10
10. Georgia: Two ranked teams — No. 9 South Carolina, No. 24 Missouri — with one in the Top 10.
11. Alabama: Two ranked teams — No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 13 LSU — with none in the Top 10.
12. Ole Miss: Two ranked teams — No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 13 LSU — with none in the Top 10.
13. Kentucky: Two ranked teams — No. 13 LSU, No. 24 Missouri — with none in the Top 10.
14. Vanderbilt: Two ranked teams — No. 12 Georgia, No. 24 Missouri — with none in the Top 10. Vanderbilt is the only team in the conference that plays eight home games.
Those are my road rankings. What are yours?
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In the never-ending attempt to keep you apprised of all preseason predictions I deem pertinent, I note the following: In a post for ESPN Insider, that man Phil Steele picks Georgia to go 11-1 and win the SEC East; Andy Staples of SI.com picks Georgia to go 10-2 and finish second to South Carolina.
Ol’ Phil, whose idiosyncratic yearbook apparently sold out quickly at the Publix on South Cobb Drive and the East-West Connector (though not before I bought mine), has already tabbed the Bulldogs as his No. 1 surprise team in the nation. The assembled SEC media, however, picked South Carolina to win the East by a goodly margin last month in Hoover, Ala., which was something of a surprise to me if no one else. (Although Mark Richt did say, “I’d have us first.”)
The AJC countdown of the Top 25, which remains ongoing on our “today’s paper” app and myajc.com, will be presented in its full grandeur — sorry, got carried away — and those of you who might have seen that Georgia was ranked No. 9 as of last Friday … well, it’s higher than that now. Credit/blame the arm injury suffered by Ohio State’s Braxton Miller for messing up my whole top 10.
As noted last week, multiple outlets — SI, ESPN the Magazine, the USA Today coaches’ poll and now the Associated Press poll — all have Georgia ranked No. 12. As also noted several times, I believe Georgia will go 10-2 and win the East.
All this speculation is about to end; they’re actually going to play some games. And me, I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. I do love reading preseason picks.
Spanning the last 25 years, Saturday Down South has looked at the quality and volume of each SEC program’s NFL Draft picks at the running back position to determine which school deserves the title of Running Back U.
There’s several programs worthy of consideration led by impressive talents including LSU’s Joseph Addai and Kevin Faulk along with the Arkansas trio of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis, but there’s four teams in particular who have separated from the rest of the pack thanks to Heisman awards and substantial NFL impact.
Which SEC team deserves the title of Running Back U?
3A. Alabama (Draft Picks: Bobby Humphrey, Kevin Turner, Siran Stacy, Derrick Lassic, Sherman Williams, Shaun Alexander, Ahmaad Galloway, Kenneth Darby, Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Brad Smelley, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy) — After a record-setting career in the college ranks, Alexander too his talent to the NFL and over nine seasons, rushed for nearly 10,000 yards … Alexander’s 100 career NFL touchdowns puts him in the Top 20 all-time … In 2009, Ingram became just the sixth player in college football history to capture the Heisman and a national championship in the same season as Alabama’s first winner of the prestigious award … Richardson, Lacy and now T.J. Yeldon continued the strong line of tailbacks during the Nick Saban era post-Ingram.
Noteworthy totals in Tuscaloosa
- Alexander: 3,565 yds rushing, 49 total TD
- Humphrey: 3,420 yds rushing, 40 total TD
- Ingram: 3,261 yds rushing, 46 total TD
3B. Auburn (Draft picks: James Joseph, James Bostic, Stephen Davis, Kevin McLeod, Fred Beasley, Rudi Johnson, Heath Evans, Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Kenny Irons, Ben Tate, Tre Mason) — One of the original ‘Thunder and Lightning’ tandems in the SEC, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams were both Top 5 picks in the 2005 NFL Draft and combined for 6,538 yards rushing and 73 touchdowns over their careers in the Tigers’ backfield … Davis, a bruising ballcarrier with tremendous strength, played 11 NFL seasons and totaled more than 8,000 yards on the ground with the Redskins, Panthers and Rams … Mason, a third-round draft pick, was the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 after rushing for a league championship game record 304 yards on 46 carries against Mizzou.
Noteworthy totals in Auburn
- Williams: 3,831 yds rushing, 45 rushing TD
- Davis: 2,811 yds rushing, 30 rushing TD
- Brown: 2,707 yds rushing, 28 rushing TD
2. Georgia: (Notable Draft Picks: Tim Worley, Keith Henderson, Rodney Hampton, Garrison Hearst, Frank Harvey, Terrell Davis, Robert Edwards, Olandis Gary, Patrick Pass, Verron Haynes, Musa Smith, Thomas Brown, Knowshon Moreno, Shaun Chapas) — Fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list, Moreno tallied his 2,734-yard total in two seasons … Moreno made leaping over linebackers a thing … A two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XXXII MVP, Davis is arguably the program’s best pro-level rusher over the last 25 years despite Hearst holding a slight yardage edge … The 7th overall pick in 1989, Worley averaged 5.8 yards per carry over three NFL seasons.
Noteworthy totals in Athens
- Heart: 3,232 yds rushing, 35 total TD
- Moreno: 2,734 yds rushing, 32 total TD
- Worley: 2,038 yds rushing, 29 total TD
1. Tennessee (Draft Picks: Reggie Cobb, Roland Poles, Greg Amsler, Chuck Webb, Charlie Garner, Aaron Hayden, James Stewart, Jay Graham, Shawn Bryson, Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Travis Stephens, Troy Fleming, Cedric Houston, Montario Hardesty) — With an incredible 15 picks, the Vols have had two more selections than any other SEC program since 1989 … Henry, the program’s all-time leading rusher, tallied 6,086 yards on the ground in seven NFL seasons … Lewis is perhaps the Vols’ most decorated back, capturing a BCS championship in 1998, then winning a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 … He went on to score 58 touchdowns and register more than 10,000 yards rushing as a 10-year pro … On an undrafted note, Arian Foster’s been a three-time All-Pro and was the NFL’s 2010 top rusher since not hearing his name called in 2009.
Noteworthy totals in Knoxville
- Henry: 3,078 yds rushing, 26 total TD
- Stewart: 2,890 yds rushing, 39 total TD
- Lewis: 2,677 yds rushing, 21 total TD
Ekeler: All-SEC linebacker Ramik Wilson not assured of starting
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- http://www.kudzu.com/yellowpages/GA/Atlanta/gutters-downspouts.html?so=ajc&med=display&con=textlin k">Prep for summer storms with new gutters!
By Chip Towers
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia’s Ramik Wilson led the SEC in tackles this past season and he is a consensus All-SEC choice in preseason polls for this one. But at the moment, he’s not guaranteed to start at inside linebacker for the Bulldogs in the first game.
That was the word from linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who indicated Friday he hasn’t seen enough of the 6-foot-2, 237-pound senior to know for sure if he’s the best option to face Clemson.
“We’ll have to see,” said Ekeler, in his first season with the Bulldogs after coaching at Southern Cal last season. “It’s too early to say. We’ve got a lot of capable guys, a lot of guys who have been out there practicing the whole time. Again, it’s too early to say right now.”
Wilson missed two full weeks of work in preseason camp due to a concussion suffered during the first week. Sophomores Tim Kimbrough (6-0, 230) and Reggie Carter (6-1, 231) have filled in with the first team during Wilson’s absence. Leonard Floyd, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound outside linebacker, has also been getting some middle linebacker reps.
“Any time you miss practice it sets you back and he missed a bunch,” Ekeler said of Wilson, who led the SEC with 133 stops in 2013. “It kind of is what it is. We’ve made some moves and he’s trying battle his way back right now.”
Ekeler indicated senior Amarlo Herrera will start at the other inside linebacker position.
“He’s been out there every day busting his tail and getting better and he’s got good command of everything,” Ekeler said. “But the way Coach Pruitt talks, it’s a week-by-week deal. You don’t rest on your laurels around here. You’ve got to earn it every week, every day in practice. We evaluate it every day in practice and we evaluate every rep in practice.
“Competition brings out the best in every one. It adds a little pressure on everyone, and pressure is a good thing.”
Ankle injury sidelines Bulldogs’ receiver Scott-Wesley
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Jason Getz / AJC File
Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (86) stiff arms Tennessee Volunteers defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) after a catch in the first half of their game at Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Oct. 5, 2013.
SEC EAST DIVISION CAPSULES
SEC WEST DIVISION CAPSULES
A game-by-game look at Georgia’s schedule
Georgia’s five players to watch
Georgia keys to the season
Bulldogs’ Gurley shifts star power back to running back
Q&A: Georgia QB Hutson Mason
Ekeler: All-SEC linebacker Ramik Wilson not assured of starting
Ankle injury sidelines Bulldogs’ receiver Scott-Wesley
Gurley among UGA’s considerations to return kickoffs
By Chip Towers
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Justin Scott-Wesley did not practice on Friday because of a recent ankle injury, but the junior wide receiver won’t play in the opener against Clemson because of a suspension.
That’s according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who spoke to reporters for about 10 minutes following Georgia’s two-hour workout at Woodruff Practice Fields. Scott-Wesley was arrested for misdemeanor pot possession while sidelined with knee injury last fall. Coach Mark Richt said at the time Scott-Wesley would be disciplined as per UGA’s standard conduct codes but has yet to announce a suspension.
What is less clear is if Scott-Wesley is physically unable to play against Clemson, would that satisfy the one-game suspension requirement dictated by UGA’s marijuana-use policy.
“Well, I can tell you from my perspective, he’s not full speed yet,” receivers coach Tony Ball said Friday. “Whatever other reasons are there, I just know he’s not full speed.”
Scott-Wesley had 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns in five games last season. But he was lost for the season when he suffered an ACL injury covering a punt against Tennessee.
Scott-Wesley had participated in nearly every preseason practice this month under non-contact status before being cleared this week. He injured his ankle on Thursday.
Keith Marshall set to make comeback on Saturday
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Jason Getz / AJC
Keith Marshall rushed for 246 yards and one touchdown in five games before his injury last season.
Keith Marshall set to make comeback on Saturday
Beyonce helping Tennessee with football recruiting
One year later, Mitchell’s knee is an object lesson
Taj Griffin out for the season with knee injury
Son of former Atlanta Falcons star commits to UGA
DB Bowman, ILB Kimbrough listed as starters on UGA’s latest depth chart
Rewind: Mark Richt on fatherhood and major issues in secondary
Rewind: Mark Richt on fatherhood and those issues in secondary
College football has Georgia on its mind
Terry Godwin: UGA 5-star commit explains why he’s visiting other schools
- http://www.kudzu.com/yellowpages/GA/Atlanta/deck-patio-builders.html?so=ajc&med=display&con=textlin k">Take the party outside! Find top deck pros
By Tanya Sichynsky
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A lot has changed for Keith Marshall since the onslaught of injuries that transpired Oct. 5.
His dreadlocks have grown to where they hang past his cheeks and rest just above his jawline. He’s down about eight pounds since last season, having fluctuated from 220 pounds to a little over 230 and finally settling at 212 when he decided all the upper body work and eating had taken a noticeable toll. And after 10 arduous months, that ACL is ready to carry him through a game at Sanford Stadium again.
“The rehab process is a long process,” the Georgia running back said. “Sometimes it gets tiring. You get tired of doing it; you’re just ready to get back. But now looking back on it, it seems like just yesterday I tore my ACL and now I’m getting ready to play another game.”
Marshall devoted a lot of time to rehabilitation, but still spent significantly less time on football as a whole. That time away led to some introspective thinking with Malcolm Mitchell.
“We just started realizing that football’s not forever,” Marshall said. “It did give me a chance, I feel like, to grow as a person, a young man.”
Marshall’s mental growth as man paralleled his physical growth as a player.
In his time away from the field, Marshall decided he wanted to be challenged more in the classroom. The challenges of the rehabilitation process didn’t quite satisfy that desire, so Marshall welcomed another change and flipped his major from management to finance.
Although the running back is a little different inside and out, one thing remains consistent: his expectations for himself.
“Same expectations I have every year,” he said. “Be the best I can be.”
And Marshall feels like he can be that person, that player. He’s finishing runs harder, driving with his knees and leaning forward in his runs a bit less. Marshall, who rushed for 246 yards and one touchdown in five games before going down against Tennessee, is ready to finally focus on playing — not about getting back in the game.
“You can’t dwell on it,” he said. “You’ve got to work back through it and get ready and see what you’re going to do next year.”
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By Chip Towers
There might not be enough balls to go around Saturday as the Bulldogs plan to play all five of their scholarship tailbacks, including freshman Sony Michel. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)
THE TEN AT 10:
1. Georgia’s ballyhooed freshman tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will both play against Clemson this Saturday. How many actual rushing attempts they get – if any – remains to be seen.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, echoing what running backs coach Bryan McClendon said on 680 the Fan’s “Bulldog Roundtable” radio show this past Friday, confirmed that all five scholarship tailbacks in Georgia’s offensive arsenal will get playing time in the opener.
“The game will dictate touches and plays,” Bobo said. “That’s really at any skill position. All five are doing well but we’ll know more (closer to the game) who will feel comfortable about playing in the game and who will get reps and touches.”
Junior Todd Gurley is, of course, Georgia’s undisputed starter at tailback. He’s backed up by junior Keith Marshall, whose availability is no longer in doubt after a remarkable recovery from knee surgery. Sophomore Brendan Douglas had the second-most carries on the team (84) as a fill-in when Gurley and Marshall were out with injuries last season.
Bobo said he can guarantee Chubb and Michel will get into Saturday’s game because they’re in the Bulldogs’ special teams plans. Michel and former American Heritage High teammate Isaiah McKenzie are slated to return kickoffs, and Chubb is on the two-deep of several special teams units, including punt coverage.
“All five are on special teams and all five will play,” Bobo said. “Offensive snaps are still to be determined.”
2. Probably underplayed during the preseason has been Marshall’s unwavering presence on the practice field. Just eight months ago, Marshall was actually in a wheelchair having had both of his knees operated on. But not only did he manage to get through the entire preseason camp without a setback, he did so the last two weeks under unlimited, non-protected status.
“I feel good,” Marshall said after Monday’s practice. “I made it through healthy. It was a blessing not having any setbacks or anything. So I’m happy. I’ve been working hard and I feel like I’m on track to be better than I was.”
Marshall has been just short of spectacular when he has been healthy. He has 1,005 career rushing yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average. He averaged 6.5 yards per attempt in 2012 when he also had touchdown runs of 52, 62, 72 and 75 yards.
3. Clemson has a decidedly different situation in its offensive backfield. The Tigers lost their three leading rushers from last year’s squad with the graduations of running back Roderick McDowell (78.8 ypg) and quarterback Tajh Boyd (30.8) and last week’s season-ending foot injury to junior Zac Brooks.
Clemson also is without redshirt freshman Tyshon Dye of Elberton, who remains sidelined following Achilles surgery. That leaves the Tigers with redshirt senior D.J. Howard and C.J. Davidson, who averaged 31 yards between them a year ago, and redshirt freshmen Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice, both native Georgians (Loganville and Thomasville, respectively).
Howard and Davidson were listed 1-2 on the depth chart that Clemson released Monday. But most seem to think Gallman, a 6-1, 205-pound graduate of Grayson High, will eventually take over at the position. He had a game-high 61 yards on nine carries and two receptions for 28 yards in the spring game.
Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler likes what he’s been seeing from Tim Kimbrough at the Mike position. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)
4. The biggest news out of Georgia’s camp on Monday was the exclusion of linebacker Ramik Wilson’s name from the starters listed on the depth chart released on Monday. Wilson is, of course, a senior and consensus preseason All-SEC first team selection who led the SEC in tackles (133) a year ago. Tim Kimbrough, a sophomore who is currently occupying the Mike linebacker spot with the No. 1 defense, has five career tackles.
First-year linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, speaking before the depth chart was posted, insists that the Bulldogs aren’t trying to play any motivational head games with Wilson.
“We’ve got a lot of capable guys, a lot of guys who’ve been out there practicing the whole time,” he said. “The way Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt talks, it’s a week-by-week deal. You don’t rest on your laurels around here. You’ve got to earn it every week, every day in practice and we evaluate every rep in practice.”
Wilson missed nearly two weeks in the middle of camp with a concussion. Normally missing time due to injury won’t cost a player his injury. But Wilson has been slow to get back up to speed mentally and physically since returning. And Kimbrough is no also-ran at the position. He was a consensus 4-star prospect and considered one of the top players in Indiana when he signed with Georgia out of Indianapolis’ Warren Central High.
“I think competition brings out the best in everyone,” Ekeler said. “It adds a little bit of pressure, which is good. Pressure’s a good thing.”
5. Speaking of Ekeler, he and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables are good friends.
“He was a teammate,” said Ekeler, who joined the Georgia staff after coaching at Southern Cal this past season. “We played together at Kansas State. I worked with him for a couple of years while I was at Oklahoma. He’s a good guy.”
Ekeler did not have anything to say about the video Clemson recently released of Venables doing yoga. “I don’t want to comment on that,” he said with a laugh.
6. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Chris Conley heading into Saturday’s game. The shoulder injury that has dogged the Bulldogs’ leading receiver the last half of preseason camp is potentially serious. Conley is dealing with a labrum issue, the extent of which is unknown outside the training room. But such injuries are always subject to the whims of contact and awkward landings during games.
After sitting out a couple of practices last week, Conley returned to the field on Monday under the protection of a green, non-contact jersey. That’s an encouraging sign for the Bulldogs, but the real test will come during the course of battle against Clemson.
7. Georgia’s situation at receiver is already somewhat precarious. The AJC’s Tanya Sichynsky did a nice job of illustrating in a recent story the extent of Malcolm Mitchell’s latest knee injury. The junior wideout had to attend a class on campus Monday in a metal knee brace and kept the leg elevated while sitting on the front row. Obviously he won’t play against Clemson on Saturday and his status for South Carolina on Sept. 13 is uncertain. With Mitchell’s history of injury, expect the Bulldogs to slow-play his comeback.
Meanwhile, junior Justin Scott-Wesley will also miss Saturday’s game. He, too, had knee surgery last year, but he will have to sit out against Clemson per disciplinary suspension. Scott-Wesley has been able to participate in most of Georgia’s preseason practices but is not 100 percent healthy, according to receivers coach Tony Ball. That was before he suffered an ankle injury in practice late last week.
The good news is Georgia has depth at receiver. Michael Bennett is solid as the starter at split end and will be backed up by surging senior Jonathan Rumph on Saturday. Sophomores Reggie Davis and Blake Tibbs are expected to get the majority reps at Mitchell’s flanker position, and walkon Kenneth Towns has out-played some scholarship players to earn backup status at Conley’s “Y” position.
Georgia’s situation will look a lot better if it gets back Scott-Wesley for South Carolina as expected. Also having Mitchell and Conley coming out of Game 1 healthy would be a boon.
Receivers Michael Bennett (L) and Blake Tibbs partake of Georgia’s 19-year watermelon tradition at the end of preseason camp. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)
8. The Bulldogs held their annual “Watermelon Cuttin’” after practice this past Saturday. Georgia normally renews that tradition when preseason camp actually ends and the players move back into the dorms. That actually happened on Aug. 16 but conflicted with Fans Picture Day. So they moved it back to this past Saturday after the Bulldogs held a private morning workout at Woodruff Practice Fields.
The Doug Coggins family, who have a farm in Franklin County, have been providing the watermelons for this occasion for 19 years. As a bonus this year, they brought along the Georgia Watermelon Queen Jennifer Eadie. Here’s a link to UGA’s video of the festivities.
9. With the start of the football season, the “Inside Georgia Football with Mark Richt” syndicated television show will resume. UGA recently released the networks and markets where that show can be viewed.
WSB-TV (Atlanta) and WALB-TV (Albany) and will again air the show on Sundays at midnight. WLTZ-TV (Columbus) will be first to air it at 11:30 p.m. Sunday after NFL coverage ends. Fox Sports’ SportSouth will provide regional coverage on Mondays at 6 p.m. The show will appear WPGA-TV (Macon) Fridays at 5:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and Cox Communications will provide the show to the local markets.
10. This & that: Richt doesn’t expect the Tigers to look much different on offense under first-year starting quarterback Cole Stoudt. “Schematically (what they’re doing is) very, very similar but, you know, the style of play of the quarterback is a little bit different,” Richt said. “Stoudt doesn’t move quite as much, but he does stand tall in the pocket and throw strikes. That’s a great virtue in a quarterback with the skill guys they have and the scheme and passing concepts that they have. If you have a guy who can put it on the money and mot be rattled if he gets knocked down a couple of times, he can hurt you.” As for the tempo of Clemson’s offense, Richt said, “They’re going to go as fast as they can go. I’d be surprised if they didn’t go just as fast or faster.” … Pruitt, like Todd Grantham before him, will coach from the sideline this season. Bobo will again coach from the press box. … One positive about Davin Bellamy being suspended for the first two games of the season (he was arrested for DUI this summer) is the rangy outside linebacker is able to give Georgia’s offense some good looks from the scout team. He’s been wearing a No. 3 jersey and emulating Clemson’s sack-happy defensive end Vic Beasley. … Georgia’s captains for Saturday’s game are quarterback Hutson Mason, center David Andrews on offense, defensive end Sterling Bailey and linebacker Kosta Vavlas.